Old school tie helps secure internships, Debrett's poll finds

17 April 2015

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Leg-up: the Queen and the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, watch a judo match after the Queen opened the new sports hall at Westminster School, in June, 2014 

Leg-up: the Queen and the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, watch a judo match after the Queen opened the new sports hall at Westm...

A PRIVILEGED background, private schooling, and a network of contacts are the key to getting an internship in Britain today, a poll published by the Debrett's Foundation suggests.

Seventy-two per cent of "privileged" young British people said that they had used family connections to obtain an internship. Those who attended private schools were shown to be twice as likely to get internships in London as children from state schools.

The chief executive of Debrett's, Joanne Milner, said that nepotism was having a greater impact in Britain than ever before. "Securing the right work-experience placement is difficult - considerably more so if you don't have the right connections. Nepotism isn't any more widespread than it was in the past, but it has a greater impact today," she said.

Debrett's still publishes guides to etiquette, and its own rival to Who's Who, listing distinguished figures in British society. Its foundation is a charitable trust that seeks to give high achievers from all backgrounds access to influential networks, and to teach them the "soft skills" needed in the business world.

Based on a comprehensive study of more than 3000 young people aged 16 to 25 - plus a further 2000 people aged 30-plus - the report has been published to raise awareness of the inherent problems with the current work-experience placement and internship system.

A quarter of those surveyed said that they thought the system for getting internships and work experience was unfair; and the same number thought that having a double-barrelled surname helped to obtain a good position. One in five said that it mattered which school you attended, and one in six said that the right accent helped to get a good internship.

Getting a placement in London is seen to be the privilege of the wealthy: a third of those from private schools obtained internships in the capital - double the number from state schools. The most significant reason for this was money, and nearly half said that they and their families could not afford the costs associated with travelling to or living in London.

Moving on from an internshipto a job is harder still. The average graduate had to do seven placemwents before being offered a full-time position. Some said that they had completed 15 different internships.

The average pay for this "pre-career" placement is £100 a week, but a gender pay-gap was found: men earned an average of £116 a week, and women, at £88, earned 32 per cent less.

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